American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Argentina, South Face of El Plata

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1961

South face of El Plata. Four Polish climbers living in Buenos Aires undertook to climb the extremely steep, difficult and rock-swept south face of El Plata (19,784 feet) above Mendoza. Perhaps the only comparable climb to it was the French ascent of the south face of Aconcagua in 1954. It must be remembered that south faces in the Andes are like north faces in the Northern Hemisphere. Indeed in his communication to the editor, Pablo Dudzinski states, "In some ways it is something like the north face of the Eiger; although technically not so difficult, it has continuous rock-fall and ice avalanches, which make the ascent very hazardous. It is also a trap, for once on the wall it is possible to move only upwards or down, since all routes that traverse are swept by avalanches.” Dudzinski and his companions, Estanislao Blicharski, Dr. Andrés Pastewski and Jorge Peterek, established Base Camp in the Las Casas valley on January 30, 1961. From Camp I at 14,000 feet they carried out a ten-day acclimatization program. On February 10, after crossing an extensive field of nieves penetentes, they attacked a very steep rib which rises at an average of not less than 65° up most of the 5500-foot high wall. In excellent weather they climbed some 2400 feet during that day and carved out a platform for their tent in the ice. From there they decided against crossing to the left glacier that descends the face because of its "forest” of penetentes and planned to continue straight upward despite the rockfall danger. On February 11 they climbed 1000 feet in 17 hours. During this day Dudzinski became bothered by the beginning of an attack of appendicitis! The next day he felt somewhat better and the attack continued, but after some hours, it was obvious that he would have to be evacuated. In deteriorating weather the day was spent in trying in vain to find a suitable escape route, for they hoped to avoid the descent down the line of ascent, which was threatened by rockfall. Finally on the morning of the 13th the party split, Dudzinski and Dr. Pastewski descending, while the other two continued upwards in a snowstorm and endangered by fresh snow avalanches. At five p.m. the clouds cleared although high winds persisted, and the two climbers found themselves on the final ridge. They reached the top an hour later. While descending the easier northern side, they were halted by utter lack of visibility because of clouds only 400 feet below the summit. On the next day they stumbled through the fog and completed their descent into the Quebrada La Angostura rather than to El Vallecito, which had been their objective. Both groups managed to get to Mendoza late the next day.

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